Monday, July 8. We arrived in Paris a day late after our flight was canceled while still on the tarmac in Philadelphia. Thankfully, all the rest of our family had arrived intact a few hours before us. As we all had an extra day before the official start, we could meet with a cousin of Laz, his wife and children at an Italian restaurant in walking distance to our hotel – Pullman Paris Tour Eiffel. https://pullman-tour-eiffel.hotelsr.com/en/#main
Tuesday, July 9. The “meet and greet” reception and diner was planned for this evening, leaving us the day to explore on our own. I had become familiar with the metro system,
and, armed with a map of the city metro, and pre-purchased tickets, Amy and I set off to visit Versailles, to the left at the end of line C5. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palace_of_Versailles#/media/File:Versailles-Chateau-Jardins02_(cropped).jpg
Unfortunately, hundreds of others arrived much earlier and had formed a queue so long that after advancing only 1/4 of the length after 45 minutes in the sun, we gave up and used our return ticket to the hotel. I had Versailles in 1963 and had walked directly into the start of our tour at that time.
This afternoon, we took the 10 minute Metro ride to the St. Michel stop which put us at the Isle de la Cité, Notre Dame, the Seine book stalls, and Sainte-Chapelle.
We first walked across the Pont St. Michel through the shaded Boulevard Du Chapelle and found the ticketed entrance for my third visit to theis amazing gothic structure, St. Chapelle, build in the 13th C. I had visited Saint Chapelle in 1963 as a college student and the visual impact of this structure has remained vivid. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sainte-Chapelle .With tickets purchased back home, we could enter by a short “express” line to the lower chapel. Entrance to the upper chapel is by a narrow curved stairway on each side of the entrance. Upon entering this magnificent testimony both to faith and the builders’ skill, one’s eyes are drawn to the 15 stained glass windows separated by thin columns of stone. These windows are to be read left to right and from the bottom upwards, and tell in 1113 pictures the story of mankind from Genesis through to the resurrection of Christ. A spectacular visual experience on this sunny day.
The remainder of the afternoon, we walked around the reconstruction of Notre Dame, and visited a few of the remaining riverside book sellers. Seeing the reconstruction of Notre Dame brought back both vivid memories of watching live as the fire on April 19, 2019 destroyed centuries of iconic architecture, and memories of reading about the cathedral to our children from the Michelin tour book from the cathedral courtyard – now filled with machinery – on our family vacation to Europe in 1986.
We returned to the hotel to prepare for the official “meet and greet” reception at the glass walled penthouse conference room. A “special guest” turned out to be a “mentalist” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mentalism who delighted the group with discovering thoughts both mental and written down.
Not to lose precious time in Paris before tomorrow’s trip to Lyons, we booked a night cruise of the Seine, allowing us opportunity for night photography and to see some of Paris in a way not yet discovered.
Wednesday, July 10. This morning we went on an orientation coach tour of the city, including the iconic buildings and areas of central Paris, including The Louvre https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louvre , Place de la Concorde https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Place_de_la_Concorde and the Luxor Obelisk https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luxor_Obelisk , Tuilleries Garden https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuileries_Garden , Avenue Des Champes Elysées https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Champs-Élysées ,Arc de Triomphe https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arc_de_Triomphe, Hôtel des Invalides https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Invalides and Place du Trocadéro https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trocadéro .
Lunch was provided on the observation platform of the Tour Eiffel. As it happened, months before without a careful reading of the itinerary, I suggested taking the family to the Tour Eiffel for supper to celebrate Helga’s 50th birthday including a special order chocolate cake. To avoid having to re-enter the tower for supper, the maitre’d at lunch suggested we simply remain and explore the tower, as he knew we had a reservation for supper. This provided an opportunity to climb to the second level between meals, burn off a large lunch and get some great photos of the city. Of course, French hospitality leaves nothing to chance: each meal was unique, tastefully prepared, artfully presented, and accompanied by more than enough included wine and soft beverages.
Thursday, July 11. This morning of we were taken on a walking tour of the Louvre. This was a much different experience than my visit in 1963, as there is now an underground parking and a glass pyramid main entrance designed by I.M. Pei https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I._M._Pei , and the exhibits have been moved around. When I brought the family there in ’86, I asked the kids to view only 4 items: The Winged Victory of Samothrace https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Winged_Victory_of_Samothrace , Giotto’s https://www.italian-renaissance-art.com/Giotto.html 13th C painting, the first to add shading that depicted human form as three dimensional and the forerunner of Renaissance art https://www.louvre.fr/en/expositions/giotto-e-compagni , The Venus de Milo https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venus_de_Milo and Mona Lisa https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mona_Lisa . Of course, in walking from on to the other, I could introduce them to art from the second century BC to the 16th century. This trip, the family saw only three of the above, and Mona Lisa has been given her own gallery.